LAKE PLACID, Fla. – In its first forecast of the 2016-17 season, the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected a decline in the Florida Citrus crop.

The report predicts a 14 percent drop in the state’s orange production, to 70 million boxes. The Florida Grapefruit crop is projected to produce 9.6 million boxes, a decrease of 11.5 percent.

According to Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus: “Today’s crop estimate, while a decline from last season, is a representation of the unrelenting dedication and hard work of Florida Citrus growers. In the face of significant challenges, they continue to push forward with new plantings and advanced agricultural techniques that allow them to maintain the viability of their groves. Citrus greening is a disease unlike any we have ever faced but the Florida Citrus industry will prevail.”

Growers gathered at an event held at Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch in Lake Placid to hear the forecast live. For many the numbers were welcome, even at the decreased levels.

“Growers are striving to do everything we can to keep Florida Citrus the best it can be. This forecast is higher than initial estimates and I’m looking forward to the day we can see this number start rising again,” said Ellis Hunt, chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission and a Lake Wales citrus grower.

Attending the event, State Rep. Ben Albritton, chairman of the agriculture and natural resources appropriations committee, acknowledged that while the numbers are lower than last season’s crop, they keep Florida Citrus competitive.

“70 million boxes represents industry stability and now we have to have the fortitude to continue to reinvest and do so at unprecedented levels so we can again regain our rightful place as the world’s largest producer of the highest quality juice and citrus,” Albritton said.

Commissioners will set tax rates at the Oct. 26 Florida Citrus Commission Meeting and vote on a final FDOC budget. Several factors will be used to determine the appropriate final tax rate for the season, including crop size, import projections, carryover and fund balance.

About the Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry.  Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels.  The industry employs nearly 62,000 people, provides an annual economic impact of nearly $10.7 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.